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Sandra Passchier

Professor, Earth and Environmental Studies

Center for Environmental & Life Sciences 324
MS, University of Amsterdam
PhD, Ohio State University
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My research focuses on understanding the impacts of climate change on polar ice sheets, lake environments, and coastal systems. I am actively involved in field and shipboard projects located in Antarctica, Greenland, and along the New Jersey coast, among other regions.

I am a sedimentologist and study drillcores using analytical methods, such as laser particle size analysis, Scanning Electron Microscopy, XRF core-scanning, and bulk geochemical analysis to reconstruct changes in provenance, paleoclimate, paleoceanography, sediment transport, and environments of deposition in a source-to-sink approach. The goal of this research is to understand the drivers of ice-sheet change over different climate states, and the role of high-latitude feedbacks in the Earth System.

As a principal investigator on projects funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, I am currently targeting the stratigraphic record of West Antarctic ice behavior and its impact on sea level and ocean circulation. Ongoing polar work includes participation as a shipboard scientist on IODP Expedition 400 to the Northwest Greenland margin.

Locally in New Jersey, I am interested in understanding the impacts of coastal management strategies on sediment dynamics under climate change. Our efforts involve field work along the coast of New Jersey and samples are processed in the Sedimentology lab for grain-size analysis and various other analytical techniques.

Dozens of undergraduate students have participated in and contributed to the lab's research, and I have served as the primary thesis or dissertation research advisor for more than 20 graduate students. The sections linked at the bottom of this page include more information on funded projects, research activities and past and current lab members.

My teaching assignments include Sedimentology & Stratigraphy, Advanced Marine Geology, Glacial Deposits and introductory courses in the Geosciences, such as Physical Geology and Earth System History.

Beyond Montclair State University, I have been a Distinguished Lecturer for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), an instructor of graduate students and post-docs with the PAIS-IODP Antarctic Summer School at Texas A&M University, and with the GLASS GLAcial Sediment School at Oregon State University. I am currently part of the Geological Society of America Student Grants Committee and the editorial board of the scientific journal Marine Geology.

Over the past 20 years, I have served as an Associate Editor for the international journal The Holocene, and held membership of several expert panels, such as the Science Evaluation Panel for the International Ocean Discovery Program, the international Science Framework Working Group for Scientific Ocean Drilling, the U.S. Advisory Committee for Scientific Ocean Drilling (USAC), the Polar Rock Repository Curatorial Advisory Board, and the international steering committee on Antarctic Climate Evolution (SCAR-ACE).

I have been awarded an Antarctic Service Medal by the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2000, received Montclair State University's College of Science and Math Faculty Research Award in 2013, and I was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2022.

Selected Recent Publications (*/** designates MSU graduate/undergraduate student, ^other student):

*Hojnacki, V., *Lepp, A., *Horowitz Castaldo, J., *States, A., Li, X., & Passchier, S., 2022. Impact of Eocene-Oligocene Antarctic glaciation on the paleoceanography of the Weddell Sea. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 37, e2022PA004440.

Gohl, K., Uenzelmann-Neben, G., Gille-Petzoldt, J., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Klages, J. P., Bohaty, S. M., Passchier, S., Frederichs, T. Wellner, J.S., Lamb, R., Leitchenkov, G. and IODP Expedition 379 Scientists, 2021. Evidence for a highly dynamic West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Pliocene. Geophysical Research Letters, 48, e2021GL093103.

^Tibbett, E.J., Scher, H.D., Warny, S., Tierney, J.E., Passchier, S., Feakins, S.J., 2021. Late Eocene record of hydrology and temperature from Prydz Bay, East Antarctica, Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology,

Dunkl, I. et al. (incl. Passchier, S.), 2020. Comparability of heavy mineral data – the first interlaboratory round robin test. Earth Science Reviews,

*Kelly, A.L., Passchier, S., 2018. A sub-millennial sediment record of ice-stream retreat and meltwater storage in the Baltic Ice Lake during the Bolling-Allerod interstadial. Quaternary Science Reviews 198, 126-139,

Colleoni, F., De Santis, L., Siddoway, C.S., Bergamasco, A., Golledge, N.R., Lohmann, G., Passchier, S. and Siegert, M.J., 2018. Spatio-temporal variability of processes across Antarctic ice-bed-ocean interfaces. Nature Communications. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04583-0

Passchier, S., *Ciarletta, D., **Henao, V, **Sekkas, V., 2018. Sedimentary processes and facies on a high-latitude passive continental margin, Wilkes Land, East Antarctica. Geological Society of London, Special Publication, v. 475, doi:10.1144/SP475.3

Sangiorgi, F., Bijl, P., Passchier, S., Salzmann, U., Schouten, S., McKay, R., Cody, R., Pross, J., van de Flierdt, T., Bohaty, S., Levy, R., Williams, T., Escutia, C., and Brinkhuis, H., 2018. A warm Southern Ocean and retreated Wilkes Land ice sheet (East Antarctica) during the mid-Miocene. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02609-7.

Passchier, S., *Ciarletta, D., **Miriagos, T., Bijl, P., Bohaty, S., 2017. An Antarctic stratigraphic record of step-wise ice growth through the Eocene-Oligocene Transition. Geological Society of America Bulletin, Vol. 129, doi: 10.1130/B31482.1.

For a complete publication list check out my CV or Google Scholar page


I am a sedimentologist and use field and laboratory methods, to 1) analyze geological archives of ice-sheet change from different climate states in the past, and 2) sediment dynamics in coastal systems.


Office Hours


2:30 pm - 3:00 pm
On Zoom or in person; other times available by appointment
12:30 pm - 1:00 pm
On Zoom or in person; other times available by appointment


Research Projects

West Antarctic Ice-sheet Change and Paleoceanography in the Amundsen Sea Across the Pliocene Climatic Optimum

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is the most vulnerable polar ice mass to warming and already a major contributor to global mean sea level rise. Its fate in the light of prolonged warming is a topic of major uncertainty. Accelerated sea level rise from ice mass loss in the polar regions is a major concern as a cause of increased coastal flooding affecting millions of people. This project will disclose a unique geological archive buried beneath the seafloor off the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica, which will reveal how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet behaved in a warmer climate in the past. The data and insights can be used to inform ice-sheet and ocean modeling used in coastal policy development. The project will also support the development of a competitive U.S. STEM workforce. Online class exercises for introductory geology classes will provide a gateway for qualified students into undergraduate research programs and this project will enhance the participation of women in science by funding the education of current female Ph.D. students.

The project targets the long-term variability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet over several glacial-interglacial cycles in the early Pliocene sedimentary record drilled by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 379 in the Amundsen Sea. Data collection includes 1) the sand provenance of ice-rafted debris and shelf diamictites and its sources within the Amundsen Sea and Antarctic Peninsula region; 2) sedimentary structures and sortable silt calculations from particle size records and reconstructions of current intensities and interactions; and 3) the bulk provenance of continental rise sediments compared to existing data from the Amundsen Sea shelf with investigations into downslope currents as pathways for Antarctic Bottom Water formation. The results are analyzed within a cyclostratigraphic framework of reflectance spectroscopy and colorimetry (RSC) and X-ray fluorescence scanner (XRF) data to gain insight into orbital forcing of the high-latitude processes. The early Pliocene Climatic Optimum (PCO) ~4.5-4.1 Ma spans a major warm period recognized in deep-sea stable isotope and sea-surface temperature records. This period also coincides with a global mean sea level highstand of > 20 m requiring contributions in ice mass loss from Antarctica. The following hypotheses will be tested: 1) that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet retreated from the continental shelf break through an increase in sub iceshelf melt and iceberg calving at the onset of the PCO ~4.5 Ma, and 2) that dense shelf water cascaded down through slope channels after ~4.5 Ma as the continental shelf became exposed during glacial terminations. The project will reveal for the first time how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet operated in a warmer climate state prior to the onset of the current “icehouse” period ~3.3 Ma.

Timing and Spatial Distribution of Antarctic Ice Sheet Growth and Sea-ice Formation across the Eocene-Oligocene Transition

The melt of land based ice is raising global sea levels with at present only minor contributions from polar ice sheets. However, the future role of polar ice sheets in climate change is one of the most critical uncertainties in predictions of sea level rise around the globe. The respective roles of oceanic and atmospheric greenhouse forcing on ice sheets are poorly addressed with recent measurements of polar climatology, because of the extreme rise in greenhouse forcing the earth is experiencing at this time. Data on the evolution of the West Antarctic ice sheet is particularly sparse. To address the data gap, we will reconstruct the timing and spatial distribution of Antarctic ice growth through the last greenhouse to icehouse climate transition around 37 to 33 Ma. We will collect sedimentological and geochemical data on core samples from a high-latitude paleoarchive to trace the shutdown of the chemical weathering system, the onset of glacial erosion, ice rafting, and sea ice development, as East and West Antarctic ice sheets coalesced in the Weddell Sea sector and beyond. Our findings will lead to profound increases in the understanding of the role of greenhouse forcing in ice sheet development and its effect on the global climate system.